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Risk Lessons from the Pandemic Warfront

Donna Boehme, Principal at Compliance Strategist, joins us for a blog posting on risk and leadership lessons from the pandemic. Donna’s profile is here and she can be reached at [email protected].

I look forward to all the books to be written about the crisis we are living through, especially with all the many high-profile lessons in #EthicalLeadership, #Trust and #CrisisManagement that are emerging daily, but here are a few Risk observations for all compliance professionals, leaders, and government officials:


If you have the same appointment that I do with the TV at 11 am for the daily pandemic briefings from “America’s Governor,” Andrew Cuomo, then you are already familiar with the Governor’s simple Risk/Reward analysis.  In his straight-forward, common sense manner, Gov. Cuomo introduced his now national audience to the concept of risk assessment, using the example of his daughter Cara, wisely choosing to defer her spring break plans for the opportunity to work with her father as he masterfully manages this pandemic.  It was such a simple, straightforward explanation that I think my own 90-year old mom would be able to understand and take away the concept of “risk/reward,” which could help her accept the severe limitations being imposed on her by my vigilant physician sister in Hawaii!

Our Federal/State System of Governance

Watching the various Governors of the country begin to take serious early action in this pandemic by issuing stay-at-home orders and other companion measures is an encouraging (and for me, heartwarming) validation of our constitutional system of government working beautifully as our founders imagined.  On the one hand, we have the Federal Government working broadly with the CDC, WHO, other virus-stricken nations, and managing the country’s treasury, while the individual independent states act as separate “laboratories” figuring out the best way to manage their unique problems on the ground, with best practices and solutions rising to the top to be shared by all.  We have all been watching as New York’s Governor has taken a strong #EthicalLeadership role that is having a visible positive impact on other states –  from New Jersey to Hawaii, or others slow to act. 

This all illustrates one of the first principles of risk assessment that all experienced CCOs live by: “He who is closest to the Risk is in the best position to manage the Risk.”  The Governors are in the best position to know the unique challenges and conditions in their own states, and the best way to encourage and oversee collaboration that yields the best results.  It’s not a stretch to understand why Hawaii Governor David Ige is uniquely positioned to manage the challenges of cruise ships, international tourist traffic, a suffering tourism industry, and an isolated multi-island culture that epitomizes the State of Hawaii.  Is it any wonder why Gov. Cuomo is frustrated by the prospect of states bidding against FEMA and each other for the country’s supply of ventilators, likening the spectacle to a bidding war on eBay in his daily briefing?  That mess is just the kind of problem that the federal government should sort out ASAP.

“Risk Stratification”

It was encouraging to see Gov. Cuomo weigh in on the debate of “opening the economy” vs. the public health shutdown.  While some worried that “the cure is worse than the problem,” the Governor explained simply, “it is not a bilateral choice.”  He offered a risk-based solution: “risk stratification,” whereby those in a lower risk category (younger, healthy, fully recovered people) could go back to work on a rolling basis, with the higher risk people (older, immunity-compromised, sick, and symptomatic people) remaining in isolation.  Once our rapid testing solutions are in place, we will have tools to implement the risk stratification solution.  Another lesson in risk, crisis management and leadership by “America’s Governor!”  I hope other governors, as well as every major CEO, are paying attention!

The good news, or silver lining, to this incredible time we are living in (which we should be talking about more) lie in the many, many ways our country and culture can learn and improve.  When we emerge from the other end of this dark, lonely Pandemic tunnel, we will be wiser, more proactive, more resilient, better prepared, and #StrongerTogether.

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